Rising star Brielle Koulen benefits from University of East London course

Tennis player Brielle Koulen

Tennis player Brielle Koulen - Credit: Archant

Hackney’s Brielle Koulen has come from modest beginnings, but she is fast establishing herself as one of the borough’s finest tennis stars.

The 21-year-old has lived here on a council estate all her life – and struggled for acceptance at school – but, with a racket in hand, she is swatting away her greatest obstacles and paving a route to the top.

Brielle first took up the sport after being talent spotted as a 10-year-old at a summer camp in Clissold Park.

She went on to be ranked fifth in the country at junior level as well as holding top spot at county level for Middlesex, but after injuries plagued her progress she was forced to re-evaluate her career.

The University of East London offered her the perfect platform, through a course that was designed around her training, with travel costs, gym membership and physiotherapy covered.

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With first-class education provided through a course in Applied Community Sports, Brielle has come back stronger and is determined to make the most of her opportunity.

“Having been so single minded-about my sport, I never thought university would be for me,” she told the Gazette. “But it’s great that I haven’t had to make too many sacrifices.

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“I’m doing a foundation degree which opens up to higher education. It’s an exciting prospect for me, to do it in the field that I have devoted my life to so far and be able to use the skills and knowledge that I have learnt in the process is a dream come true.”

UEL – like Brielle – has come a long way in a short space of time, expanding from having one men’s tennis team in 2010 to boasting a reputation as one of the UK’s best universities for the sport.

With facilities at Lee Valley, the men’s team are now in the Premier Division while the women’s team have already risen to Division One among fellow universities.

Brielle had loftier ambitions, but when the right-hander ruptured her Achilles during the national county championship two years ago, her dreams of turning professional seemed a long way off.

Standing at a crossroads between the long road to rehabilitation and pursuing an alternative career path, the university offered her the perfect route to safeguard her future without neglecting her pursuit as a young tennis star.

“The funny thing was after getting the scholarship, I injured my wrist so missed most of last season,” Brielle added. “It was only when the club captain (Lewis Thompson) convinced me to skip class to attend training that I thought I’d try my hand out.

“I was thrown into the first team a week later, and I’m now fully mended and can’t wait for the new season. I’m playing at a good level again.

“Overcoming my injury has taught me a resilience and strength of character to pull through adversity that I didn’t know I had. These are all things that I feel I can bring to my studies and my degree course to help me thrive.

“I’m determined to represent my university to the best of my ability alongside my studies. I also want to continue with my tennis career as everyone I’ve encountered in the tennis environment says I have what it takes to make it.”

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